In Swing State Colorado, Voters React To Health Bill

Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey of Colorado voted against previous efforts to overhaul health care, but she supported the bill that passed the House on Sunday night. Markey represents a swing district in a swing state. Her constituents weigh in on the vote — and the changes likely coming to the health care system.

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Less than a day after the House passed a sweeping health care overhaul, members of Congress, especially Democrats in swing districts, are closely watching reaction back home.

In Colorado, freshman Democrat Betsy Markey voted against a previous overhaul bill but for the Senate version that passed last night. She was already facing a tough reelection and this could make winning even tougher.

NPR's Jeff Brady visited Loveland, Colorado to hear what Markey's constituents are thinking today.

JEFF BRADY: Markey represents Colorado's sprawling and mostly rural fourth congressional district. As in the rest of the state, Republicans outnumber Democrats and no one wins without the support of the third of voters who don't belong to a party. Laverne Newman(ph) of Loveland is one unaffiliated voter who's very upset with Congresswoman Betsy Markey today.

Mr. LAVERNE NEWMAN: I think it was totally political. She took a tank.

BRADY: What do you mean?

Mr. NEWMAN: She tanked. She went down because they put the pressure on her.

BRADY: Newman doesn't buy Representative Markey's explanation that she changed her vote because her concerns about the cost of the overhaul had been adequately addressed. He wanted lawmakers to scrap the current bill and come up with a simpler version.

Mr. NEWMAN: Very disappointed.

BRADY: And do you think it'll hurt her in this district?

Mr. NEWMAN: I sure hope it does. I'll do everything in my power to make sure it hurts her.

BRADY: Most of the voters interviewed for this story aren't nearly that upset with Markey. In fact, most say they don't want to think yet because they don't really understand what the health care overhaul bill will do. Markey must now spend time and money convincing constituents that her vote was a good choice.

In a fundraising letter sent out Sunday, Markey said she's likely to become a big target for conservative groups that want to unseat her. She'll rely heavily on the few die-hard Democratic supporters like Mary Williams who believe Markey helped make history Sunday night.

Ms. MARY WILLIAMS: We just watched the whole thing on TV last night and it was just like - it was, it was patriotic, it was wonderful and it's like I like what Obama said about it being common sense.

BRADY: On Saturday, President Obama singled out Representative Betsy Markey as an example during a speech to Democratic lawmakers. He talked about a local newspaper - the Coloradoan - that had opposed both the House and Senate version of health care overhaul, but that changed after Representative Markey said she would vote for the Senate version.

President BARACK OBAMA: And lo and behold, the next day, that same newspaper ran an editorial saying, you know what, we've considered this, we've looked at the legislation and we actually are pleased that Congresswoman Markey is supporting the legislation.

BRADY: It's clear, Markey's opponents see an opportunity to win back her traditionally Republican seat though. Shortly after the vote was announced Sunday night, one of Markey's Republican challengers, State Representative Cory Gardner, issued a statement saying if he's elected next November he'll work to repeal the overhaul.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Loveland, Colorado.

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